The blue tick, as those who have it will never admit, is a status symbol, the Twitter equivalent of who gets to be on Koffee with Karan.
Randhir Kapoor—or was it Hasrat Jaipuri—sang in Kishore Kumar’s voice— tickticktickticktickaticktick, chalti jaaye ghadi (time keeps ticking) and Elon Musk continued with tickticktickticktick-blue-tickticktick yaniki time so pay up for that blue tick that marks you as a Twitter elite sorry, I mean verified account, confirming you are you.
Twitter’s blue ticks are supposedly given to accounts of public figures. They verify identity, but also signify that you matter. Now that you can buy a blue tick there are many hai taubas that just anyone could be admitted to the Gymkhana Club of online life. Of course, this is always couched as concerns for the greater good. Former Twitter global communications head Brandon Borrman said, “currently, all users around the world had equal voices on the platform” but selling verification and higher visibility would “stratify” Twitter. Sure, we are all equal on Twitter, just like we are all equally influential on Instagram no matter how we look. Twitter—like everything—is stratified, by language, social identity, a certain verbal cleverness and the capacity to tweet a lot. Paying for this both messes with cultural capital, but also makes it explicit. The blue tick, as those who have it will never admit, is a status symbol, the Twitter equivalent of who gets to be on Koffee with Karan.
I have heard friends speak of their blue ticks in long-suffering tones—such a complicated sign-in yaar, good you don’t have. It’s like how rich people tell not-rich friends with adoring pity, you’re so real you know, never change. Still others have said with innocent confusion, they don’t even know how they got that blue tick, it just apparently appeared one day. Like the fashionista looking at her Rs 80,000-dress with surprise, “Is this supposed to be on trend? I just like it because it’s so comfortable, like an old nightie.” One has to giggle a bit. It’s like people who feel they are cool because they live in Bandra. But if you are really cool, I think you would live in Andheri East (ahem), because, why would you need a pin code to verify you? Which is the Erica Jong position on blue ticks.
In 2020, fans of Erica Jong, began petitioning Jack Dorsey to verify her account—how could she not have a blue tick? To which Ms Jong replied “Thank you for worrying I’m not verified. Trust me—I verify myself. 30 books, many bestsellers. Essays, screenplays, poems, movies, more fans than I can ever meet. Thank you for caring. I care for you. Hope to inspire and heal with my writing.” To be that kind of free bird, I guess you should not have the fear of flying.
Erica Jong has since left Twitter so I’m glad I kept that screenshot. Yes, an unverifiable gent seems to have her handle but seems like she doesn’t care.
On Friday, Musk carried out a Squid Game of employment, with brutal layoffs. To be verified by that world means what it means I guess. Anonymity once gave the internet a certain potency—political, creative, sexual—like the play and thrill of a masquerade ball, where meanings were sensed, not pre-classified and new connections might spark. The insistence on verifications and classifications has serviced surveillance, control, privilege and profit. To claim lost idylls of innocence is as disingenuous online as offline.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org